Cosima von Bonin is a German conceptual artist. We reviewed her first NYC solo show, Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea, on now at SculptureCenter in Long Island City.
SculptureCenter’s latest show, Cosima von Bonin: Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea is an interesting name for a show. It sounds almost like the title for a long form story that might be written by a wiry young reporter; their first big project. All the while, it’s a story that has a known niche audience; likely to be lauded by few, but lauded nonetheless. The approach Cosima brought was not apparently ‘big scope’ nor a story that anyone would necessarily read. It’s something intellectual and considerate, probably full of important curiosity and considerations, but ultimately will only come in handy when the wiry young reporter needs something to add.
The story is, frankly, playful: the story is the deep sea brought to the surface. But at the same time, there is a fascination with the interception of human life (very surface-level, only the most adventurous reach the bottom of the ocean). But this was the opening for von Bonin: unexplored territory. It allowed perception to thrive, even things she does not know but can conceptualize. It is von Bonin’s ability to make the unfamiliar feel immediately familiar and even comforting. Viewers do not catch themselves in this act, which is a success on von Bonin’s part. They are plastic sea creatures, they are fur sea creatures- stuffed animals. But then it is a whale sitting a desk, a octopus on the rug. They are wooden shacks, they are absurdist bikinis posted on a wall. It is a dance, a ceremony, and suddenly, in its human form, all too foreign. This, the viewers do catch themselves. Suddenly you want to avoid it all. Two clams on a swing, won’t they fall off? The human exerts their interests and protections on sea creatures that exist in a place we literally can’t- what do we know? So then, the conversion is made- the transaction is complete. In von Bonin’s world of playthings, we are the toys.
Cosima von Bonin: Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea?
September 19, 2016 – January 2, 2017
44-19 Purves St, Long Island City, NY 11101